April 29, 2009
New Study Finds 70% of Law Firm Diversity Budgets Holding Constant or Increasing Despite Weak Economy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Is the current economy causing the majority of large law firms to reduce their diversity spending? Not according to a new research study of the nation’s largest law firms. The 2009 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey, co-sponsored by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals (ALFDP), asked more than 200 diversity representatives at the nation’s largest law firms how the economy had impacted their diversity budgets.
More than 50% of the survey respondents said that their diversity budgets will remain about the same in 2009 as in 2008, and 20% of the law firms said their budgets will be higher. There are still law firm diversity leaders that expect to spend more than $400,000 on internal and external diversity efforts this year.
“It is encouraging to see that the majority of law firms remain committed to diversity and appreciate the value that is derived through investing in a combination of internal and external efforts,” said Veta T. Richardson, MCCA’s Executive Director. “And in this economy, where all expenditures are subject to scrutiny, that investment of resources is even more critical.”
Only 25% of the survey’s respondents reported that they will cut back on diversity spending during 2009. Internal diversity budgets are being reduced slightly more than external budgets according to many firms. (Whereas 28% of respondents said their internal diversity budgets have been reduced, only 22% will cut external diversity spending.) However, as some respondents pointed out, this may reflect a concerted effort to streamline internal programs that can be more easily controlled compared to outside diversity efforts such as advertising, support of minority bars and pipeline programs. “Many firms have told us that they are looking at ways to be more creative and strategic with their internal diversity budgets, such as offering internal diversity training sessions,” said ALFDP’s President, Sylvia James, Diversity Counsel from the law firm of Baker Botts.
The Flourishing Company, a national workplace consulting firm, administered 2009 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey online for MCCA and ALFDP during the early part of April. In addition to surveying ALFDP members, the Am-Law 200 firms were invited to participate. Ninety-four different law firms responded to the survey.
Click here for a PDF showing the law firm responses to questions on the survey pertaining to the firms’ diversity budgets. Additional information from the entire 2009 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey will be available later in May on the MCCA website at www.mcca.com.
The Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals acts as a catalyst for the advancement of diversity in the legal professional through collective knowledge, vision, expertise and advocacy in the area of firm diversity. Founded in 2006, ALFDP’s membership includes many AmLaw 100 firms, the nation’s hundred largest law firms ranked by revenue.
The Minority Corporate Counsel Association advocates for the expanded hiring, retention, and promotion of minority attorneys in corporate legal departments and the law firms that serve them. Since its founding in 1997, MCCA has emerged as the legal profession’s knowledge leader on diversity issues and its expanded platform offers solutions to diversity management challenges involving women, physically challenged, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lawyers, in addition to attorneys of color (which remains its primary focus).
MCCA advances its mission by publishing innovative research, illuminating diversity best practices, honoring diversity leadership with its prestigious Employer of Choice and Thomas L. Sager awards, and assisting diverse law students through the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program. MCCA’s award-winning programs and services have been cited by several leading organizations, including the National Minority Business Council, Inc., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National LGBT Bar Association, and the Association of Corporate Counsel.